Ohio National Guard to end food bank after 15 months

CINCINNATI – Inside Ohio’s 14 food banks, everywhere from the warehouse, loading docks and packing rooms, a flurry of persimmons and camouflage can be found. For months, those calling out orders, filling boxes, and running machines were all men and women of the Ohio National Guard.

Now, as coronavirus cases decline and the vaccine rollout continues, more and more plainclothes volunteers are joining and in some places outnumbering them. Next July, it will be time for the citizen soldiers and airmen to hand over the baton and return home.


What would you like to know

  • The National Guard will complete its mission in Ohio food banks on July 2
  • Food banks were the first deployment of the guard during the pandemic
  • Hundreds of Guard members have been deployed to Ohio’s 14 food banks
  • They distributed 56 million pounds of food.
  • The National Guard will continue to serve at testing sites and vaccination sites for timbering

Staff Sgt. Sharber welcomes family coming for curbside distribution

On July 2, the National Guard’s 15-month mission serving Ohio food banks will end. Many of these citizen soldiers have been deployed since March 2020, as the food bank mission was the first to bring in guardsmen and women to help during the pandemic.

Over the past year, Master Sgt. Makayla Sharber of the Army National Guard said she has come to understand on a visceral level what service means.

“A lot of people who were successful in the beginning were losing their jobs and they were embarrassed to go through food banks, they never thought in their entire life that they would spend and depend on a food bank,” he said. she declared.

She started at Second Harvest where she worked with the management team before moving to the Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati six months ago.

The National Guard assists with the distribution of food at the curb

Living in Clermont County, she said it opened her eyes to serve so close to home.

At the start of the pandemic, Trisha Rayner, director of development at the Freestore Foodbank, said they saw demand for food aid doubling, but didn’t have many options to look for help. .

“When the pandemic hit, our volunteers had to stay home and take care of their families,” she said.

Instead, the Ohio National Guard served as a workforce.

“We knew that by starting this we knew it was going to be a marathon and not a sprint,” said Rayner.

For months, Sharber has helped lead the team of citizen soldiers and airmen in packing boxes of long-life merchandise as well as power packs for school-aged children, but these are the collections. curbside weeklies that she says had the biggest impact on her.

“In the last year we’ve probably done over 500,” she said.

This is where the Guardian interacts directly with the people they are helping. Filling their trunks with the food they helped pack.

Another local, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Jones said it helped him better understand his own neighbors.

“For me my church is really just down the street and around the corner from Reading Road, so for me I know this community,” he said. “Working and serving our community has really been a good thing. “

He plans to take it with him long after he leaves Freestore next week.

In preparation for this transition, the volunteers are back and are taking on more responsibilities. In June, Master Sgt. Tony Campbell said Freestore volunteers outnumbered the guards and did most of the heavy lifting.

Volunteers return to take over from the National Guard

“They have been great,” he said. “A lot of them come back and come maybe twice a week or so, so we see a lot of them. It’s great that we are leaving it in good hands.

Rayner said July and August were for Freestore volunteers only, but that in the fall she hopes local businesses will start to consider helping as well. She said that before the pandemic, many workplaces sent large groups of employees to volunteer for an afternoon.

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, she said the need is still higher than in 2019, but it is well below its peak of 2020. Rayner said she was grateful that the gatekeeper has been there all the time to help meet this demand and that she will need a dedicated and consistent flow of volunteers to keep the momentum going.

“Our members of the guard have picked up a pace here,” she said. “Likewise for our volunteers, a lot of them have volunteered with us before, so they just need to get back into the rhythm too and it just takes a little bit of time. “

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